When people tell you the inspirational story of Bill Gates, when they tell you how talented and hardworking Bill Gates is, you really can’t doubt his talent or hard work. But a part of his story is never told to the people. Had you been in Bill Gates’ place, and even if you were equally talented and hardworking as Bill Gates, you still would not have achieved what he has.
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“So, you’re the wealthiest man in the world for 20 years in a row…” “Microsoft hit a new record high on Wall Street…” “He’ll do whatever he can to capture more of the market.” “You were the youngest person to become a billionaire, is that right? Yeah, in terms of earning it on my own.”
Seattle, Washington: 1967. An eighth-grader, Bill, gets a hold of a computer. This wasn’t a computer like the ones we’re familiar with. It was the Teletype Model 33 ASR of the time, connected through phone lines to the computers of the General Electric Company. But this surprised young Bill. The possibilities of the computer. Bills started spending hours trying to figure out the computer. He developed his first program on the computer. Fast-forwarding to some years later, Bill Gates became the richest man in the world. He remained the richest person for about 20 years. Today, he’s the fourth richest with a wealth of $124 billion.
At 12-years-old, Bill Gates was studying at Lakeside School. A private school in Seattle. At school, he had some friends who were equally passionate about computers. Kent Evans, Bill Gates’ first best friend. Paul Allen, a tenth-grader. And Rick Weiland. The four of them started the Lakeside Programmers Group. He tried to come up with ways to use the computer outside school too. In Seattle, there was a small company called Computer Center Corporation. They rented out computers by the hour. A year later, in 1968, Bill and his friends started visiting this store to use the computers. But the cost to do this was quite high.
This store charged $40 to use a computer for an hour. So Bill and his friends started looking for bugs in the operating system of CCC. They found the loopholes in the computer system, and tried to exploit those for more computer time. When they were caught, they were banned by the store. But next summer, this small company thought of using these kids to look for bugs in the system. They said that they could use the computers for free,
if they kept on identifying the problems in the system. Here, Bill Gates learnt several programming languages. Fortran, Lisp… But soon this small store went out of business. Again, these kids were left with no means to access computers. Then they found a company in Portland. Called Information Sciences Inc. This company allowed them to use their computers for free too, as long as they wrote a programme for the company.
It was a payroll programme, it helped them learn more about taxes and payrolls. By then, their school had recognised their talents, and so in 1971, Bill Gates and his best friend, Kent Evans were told to write a programme for the school. They had to make class schedules on the programme. They worked hard on the programme, but on a weekend, Kent Evans went on a holiday to the hills, and unfortunately, he died after falling off of a cliff. This accident shocked Bill. But he didn’t stop working. He continued working with his other friend, Paul Allen. He was in college by then. In 1972, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded their first company, Traf-o-Data.
They were interested in technology and business both. They wanted to develop a program that could process the traffic on the roads. So that they could sell it to the traffic department. Though they worked hard on it, it didn’t turn out very successful. The next year, in 1973, Bill Gates graduated from high school. He takes the SAT and scores exceedingly well. 1590 out of 1600. With this, he gets admission to Harvard. One of the best universities in America.
By then, Paul was quite bored of attending classes at the university. So he moved to Boston and started working with Honeywell Corporation. He advised Bill to start working with him at Honeywell. So in 1974, both were working for Honeywell Corporation. One day, while Paul was going somewhere, he came across a magazine stall. Which carried the magazine Popular Electronics. The picture on the front page of the magazine
was of Altair 8800. The first personal computer in the world. It had the Intel 8080 processor. Paul bought the magazine and ran to show it to Bill Gates. Paul was trying to tell Bill Gates for quite some time that the size of the computer chips was getting exponentially smaller. While their speed and power were exponentially increasing. And it was only a matter of time before a computer was built that was so small that
it could be used as a personal computer. There was a live example on the front page of the magazine. Someone had built the computer before Bill Gates and Paul. The company that made this computer was Mits. Paul and Bill called up the company and told them that the two of them would like to write software for them. The most popular programming language at the time was Basic.
So they wanted to write software for the computer in Basic. Paul had to relocate to another city, while Bill dropped out from Harvard. They built a Basic version and sold it to Altair. The company was so pleased with the work that they offered a job to Paul, But by then, Paul was running his consultancy.
Micro-Soft. It was later renamed to one word;
Microsoft. They had several contracts from Texas Instruments, a Japanese company; But Microsoft got its first big break when they provided DOS operating system for IBM Computers. In the meanwhile, the team of Microsoft was working on a new operating system.
In November 1983, they announced their new operating system. Windows 1.0 Though it was officially launched later in 1985. Next year, in March 1986, Microsoft launched their IPO. With Goldman Sachs as their Book Running Manager. The IPO price was set at $21/share. And after the first day of trading, their share price had reached $28. And they never had to look back since. Microsoft went on to be extremely successful. Windows 98 was launched.
As we all know, their software reached all nooks and crannies in the world, their computers were astoundingly successful. You might find this story very inspirational.
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A super-intelligent boy, who’s passionate about something, works hard on it, thinks out of the box, and even drops out of his college to pursue his dream, builds a company that gets immensely successful. This boy becomes the richest man in the world. Isn’t it a motivational story? An inspirational story. If Bill Gates could do it, why can’t you? But friends, as I told you at the beginning of the video, there’s a twist in our story. What is it? It is the twist of Privilege. How privileged was Bill Gates? Let me explain what I mean in points. As you’ll understand, you find that had you been in Bill Gates’ place, and were as talented and hardworking as Bill Gates, even then you couldn’t have been as successful as him.
Why? Come, let’s see. First: had Bill Gates been a woman, it wouldn’t have been possible. Because during the 1960s, there was significant gender discrimination in the USA.
Did you know that in the 1960s, a bank could refuse to give a credit card to a woman? Even if the woman was married, her husband’s signature was needed. In many states of the US, women couldn’t serve on the jury.
In 1961, the Supreme Court of the US, upheld a Floridian law, preventing women from serving on the jury. Women weren’t allowed to take birth control pills, it was allowed only after the historic judgement in the US in 1972. 1963’s Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women stated that for every dollar that a man earns, if a woman does the same job and the same work, she earns 59 cents. It was in 1964, the US passed a law preventing gender discrimination against women. And perhaps a more important point,
during the 1960s, almost all Ivy League universities didn’t grant admission to women. Women weren’t even allowed to enter Harvard’s library till 1967. Till 1977, the male to female ratio was at 4:1. Women had to be four times as smart as men to get admission to the same university. Harvard had a sister school for women, Radcliffe College. It didn’t give the female students the same privileges that the male students got.
It was shut down only in 1999, and a common Harvard School was set up, where male and female students could get admission without any discrimination.
Second: had Bill Gates been black, it wouldn’t have been possible. Because the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, before this, the “blacks” weren’t allowed to enter in restaurants, cinema halls, churches or schools. Even in busses, they had to sit in designated corner, while the buses used to be reserved for the whites.
People of colour weren’t even allowed to vote in several southern states. In 1968, when Bill Gates and Paul Allen were working on their computers in the Computer Centre Corporation, Martin Luther King was assassinated, because he was fighting for the rights of the people of colour. Throughout the 1960s, there were several riots for Black Rights. Over racial discrimination.
Third: had Bill Gates been born in some other country. Or even in another US city.
It might not have been possible. Bill and Paul lived in a developed country a developed city in a developed country. Had Bill Gates been born in India, he might not have seen a computer before he turned 30. Because mass-scale adoption of computers was seen in India after 1985. But even if we talk about America, Seattle was an advanced city for computers. Computer technology reached this city in the 1960s. The programming language Basic was invented in this city.
The computer that Bill and Paul were using at the CCC store, was one of the first commercial systems, to be available in the country.
Fourth: even if you were a white male living in Seattle, don’t get your hopes up, because not everyone living in Seattle had an access to computers. Bill and Paul both were studying at a top-notch private school. The middle-class people couldn’t send their kids to the Lakeside School. Not only were they getting a good quality education at the school,.but they were also getting access to the computers.
When Bill Gates experienced computers for the first time in 1965, there were only about 22,000 computers all across America. While the population of America was 200 million.
Fifth: the influence of parents. Paul Allen’s father Ken, he was the Associate Director at the Library of the University of Washington. Because of this, Paul could access the books on computers. Bill Gates’ parents were also on the governing body of the university. When the CCC store went bankrupt, Paul and Bill went to their parents for help and they got access to the university’s graduate computing centre at Robert’s Hall.
There they worked with various computers. It was here that they saw the first computer game of their lives. Again, I’d like to repeat what I said in the video on nepotism, it isn’t a criticism, any parent would want to help their kids in any way possible. So Paul and Bill got their parents’ help, an advantage. Later in his life, Paul built a library and a computer centre, and named the library after his father for this reason. Bill Gates too got an advantage of his father’s profession. Bill Gates’s father was a lawyer. Officially registering Microsoft, renting a space, hiring people, fighting legal battles against Altair, these would have been very difficult for a common man, but because his father was a lawyer, Bill Gates could get a lot of legal help from his father. On a related note, not everyone can afford to drop out of college. Bill and Paul could afford this because they had their family’s wealth as a reserve.
There’s another man in our story, Monte Davidoff. When Paul and Bill were working on Altair’s Basic software, a crucial part of the software was written by Monte. But when Paul and Bill offered Monte a permanent job at Microsoft, Monte refused to drop out of college. He said that his father had a small hardware store, so he couldn’t afford to take such a big risk. He had to get a college degree. And thus it is a very important point. Not everyone can afford to drop out of college.
Next point: a major turning for Microsoft was when they got a contract from IBM. Till then, Microsoft was a small company. But how did they get this contract? There’s an interesting story to it. The Chairperson of IBM at the time was John Opel. He was also a board member of a non-profit organisation United Way.
A co-member of the board of this organisation was Mary Maxwell Gates. Bill Gates’ mother. She talked to Opel about Microsoft. As Microsoft’s competition, there was a big company called Digital Research. It was much bigger than Microsoft. IBM wasn’t able to negotiate properly with it. So when Mary suggested Microsoft, IBM’s Chairman decided to give a chance to Microsoft. This chance that Microsoft got, was immensely important. They may not have gotten this chance if Mary Gates was on the same board.
Not only this, friends, there’s another twist in the story, regarding IBM’s contract. When Microsoft entered into a contract with IBM, Microsoft didn’t even have any software to sell. There was another company called Seattle Computer products, that had a Q-DOS Operating System. Paul bought this Q-DOS operating System, and gave it to IBM. It wasn’t the exact copy, they made some modifications to it.
They changed the name too. From Q-DOS, it became MS-DOS. Microsoft DOS. And you know how popular MS-DOS is today. But anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that these points, were the privileges that Bill Gates and Paul Allen had, due to which they could be so successful. With talent and hard work alone, perhaps Bill Gates couldn’t have reached the point he is at now.
These are the things ignored by many. You can call this Privilege Blindness. Ignoring privileges. All of us have some privileges. We have different circumstances, we have grown up in different environments, our parents have different backgrounds, our caste, our religion, all these do make a difference. Due to these reasons, the starting line for Bill Gates, was very ahead of that of a common person who was born in India at the same time.
There was a next to impossible chance that an Indian could have reached the point that Bill Gates could reach then. Today, obviously, the world has changed. But these privileges are still valid. Though there are exact same privileges, obviously, there’s higher racial equality in America, there’s more gender equality, there are more female students at Harvard than males.
But even today, in various countries, we get to see privileges of different aspects. One of the aspects of this privilege is the nepotism in Bollywood. Or when politicians’ children become politicians. Being born in a developed city, growing up there, being born in a background that saw no riots and uprisings, all of these come together, to become an advantage for some of you. And will be a disadvantage for the others.
A person who got these privileges, I’m not saying that he should be robbed out of all privileges, but they need to acknowledge those privileges. People shouldn’t be blind to it. Look around you, and acknowledge these. On a small scale, ignoring the talent and hard work, one of the reasons is also that from my childhood I got exposure to the filming equipment. I could spend my free time on an editing software to improve myself. I could get an early exposure to YouTube that most of the Indians didn’t. I knew about YouTube since 2010, I knew what it was, its content, but most Indians could access the internet only after the launch of Jio in 2016, So perhaps doing this would have been much more difficult for someone else.
I want you to think about this too. Whatever you’re doing in life, whichever profession you’re in, what are the privileges that you got that you could reach where you are? Obviously, talent and hard work would always be a factor. But on ignoring these factors, what were the privileges in your life? That helped you reach where you are in your career.
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